Usually people go to church on Christmas Eve, but we (kind of) do on Christmas Day. At 9, we leave the hotel and beat the traffic to St. Charles Avenue, a historically elite thoroughfare delineated with mansions and century old oak trees, themselves decorated by dangling Mardi Gras beads from last seasons. Hardly any traffic presents, except for a streetcar chugging up and down the cable lines. If not for these black lines, the scenery would have resembled Tự Do Street (now labelled Đồng Khởi) in Saigon, especially with the Holy Name of Jesus Church looking out to Audubon Park, like the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and the greenery to its left front side.
Parting from the arches of oak branch weaving across the road, we head to the French Quarter. Hardly any trees now, but many more colorful skinny houses adorn the sidewalks. A flimsily dressed, green-shoed man jumps rope on Canal Street, in the mist and sprinkle of Christmas Morning, disturbed by neither cars driving by nor the onlooking of another man, black-jacketed and huddling to himself in the corner.
We loop back for dinner at Mudpie’s Aunt Mamee and Uncle Mike’s residence, starting with some melting-cheese-veiled etouffee in mini pastry shells, chips and dips, and trouts on bread that go faster than hot cakes.
We are seated in the dining room, surrounded by Nativity sets (some inside Christmas tree ornaments), a collection of pine trees and white chinas, and pampered with velvety mashed sweet potato and crispy browned marsh mallow, brown sugar glazed carrots,
crumbly dirty rice, stuffing, gentle and buttery red fish,
juicy turkey, and Little Mom’s crunchy chicken cabbage salad dressed with tempered lemon juice. We all come back for seconds, and would have come back for thirds if not to save room for Mamee’s scrumptious chewy chocolate chip cookies.